Happy ending for O's

Markakis' sac fly in ninth inning caps comeback against Boston

Orioles 6 Red Sox 5

August 11, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

After the final out of a grueling top of the eighth inning, the Orioles returned to a shell-shocked dugout, wrestling with a mixture of negative emotions.

They were frustrated that a one-run lead over the Boston Red Sox had suddenly morphed into a four-run deficit. They felt sorry that ace Erik Bedard was forced to walk off the mound in position to get a loss after throwing seven dominating innings. And they were angry that some of the precious few fans who did come to Camden Yards to root for the home team were either on their way to the exits or being thoroughly drowned out by Red Sox fans.

"I wish I could lie and say we were positive and upbeat, but I don't think we were," Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said. "I know I was agitated."

It would have been impossible to predict that one inning later the Orioles would be celebrating their most exhilarating victory of the season. The Orioles scored four times in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game and then scored the winning run in the ninth on Nick Markakis' sacrifice fly for an improbable 6-5 victory in front of an announced 48,993, the largest crowd at Camden Yards this season.

"The only negative thing I can say is, shame on the people who left," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "They missed one of the great comebacks that's been coming around here for a long time. Maybe these guys tonight earned a little bit respect, that maybe the people will stick around and watch them. I said all along that it'll take us to go the extra mile to get people back on our side here, and I think tonight might have been a step in the right direction for that to happen."

The Orioles (53-61) avoided their fourth straight defeat in a game that for seven innings featured a tense pitching duel between Bedard and Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. But that changed in the top of the eighth when the Red Sox scored five times against Bedard and two Orioles relievers.

The Orioles returned the favor with four in the bottom of the inning, which included Melvin Mora's game-tying single off Hideki Okajima after recently acquired setup man Eric Gagne managed to get just one out while giving up three hits and a walk.

Then after Jim Hoey, making his second appearance this season, got out of a jam in the top of the ninth, Roberts led off with a double off Okajima. Corey Patterson, who got the eighth-inning rally started with a double, dropped down a sacrifice bunt and then Markakis scored Roberts from third.

"I was just looking for the first pitch that I could drive into the outfield," Markakis said. "I'm sure a lot of people thought it was over [in the eighth] but we still had had two at-bats left."

The Orioles, who had the look of a beaten team earlier in the night, rushed out of the dugout with half of the team congratulating Markakis and the other half gathering around Roberts.

"It's one of the best wins I've ever been a part of," Roberts said. "It's one that you just don't expect. You know what you are facing, too. The odds aren't good to score five runs off their bullpen in the eighth and the ninth. It was fun to be a part of."

It was especially gratifying for Roberts, who after the game expressed frustration with the club's lack of fan support last night.

"I don't know why so many Red Sox fans want to be here and Oriole fans don't," Roberts said. "You look around and you realize that you're swamped in red. It gets really old. To see Wily Mo [Pena] run off the field to a standing ovation after just tying the game is annoying.

"[Orioles fans] are missing out on an opportunity to watch one of the best pitchers in the league against a first-place team. Bedard was phenomenal tonight and deserved a lot more than what he got. I thought what we did in the eighth and nine innings was pretty impressive, too.

"You'd just like to have the support of our fans. We have a pretty darn good team. When we win, I know people will come out. But it would nice if they came out to support us when we're in the process of developing a winning team."

Bedard took two steps off the mound in the eighth, convinced that he had his 200th strikeout of the season, one that would propel a pitching duel with Matsuzaka into the ninth inning with the Orioles holding at least a one-run lead.

But the strike call on his 1-2 fastball to Pena that flirted with the inside corner never came from home plate umpire CB Bucknor. One pitch later, Bedard lost the opportunity for his ninth straight victory. Pena tied the game with a single off Bedard, who was then removed from the game by Trembley with his pitch count at 114.

"You always want to stay, but it is his call and you respect it," said Bedard, who walked around the mound angrily when Trembley came out of the dugout to remove him. "You always get frustrated when it doesn't go your way, but that is part of your game."

Bedard watched the rest of the eighth from the dugout, including Julio Lugo's go-ahead bunt single on Chad Bradford's first pitch of the ninth. He then went the clubhouse to watch the Orioles keep his eight-decision winning streak alive in the most dramatic of fashions.

"I don't think guys were down," Trembley said. "I think guys were determined to do something about that game because Bedard had pitched so well and he didn't deserve to lose tonight."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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